Karma for Cara Foundation awards microgrants to youths 18 years of age and younger who spearhead exceptional service projects in their communities. A 15-year-old from Illinois, Kate used her award to start a series of workshops focused on encouraging girls to explore STEM fields, specifically called Glenview’s Got STEAM! Kate’s peers were mentors for the younger girls during workshops. She would like to create a safe space for these girls to learn more about science and technology.
- How many volunteers participated in your project? How many hours did it involve? We had a total of 12 high school volunteers for our Glenview’s Got Steam workshops to inspire middle school girls to be involved in STEM activities and endeavors. These volunteers helped to create our curriculum and volunteered at monthly events for a total of 50 hours. All our curriculum came from our ideas and experiences making it unique.
- What did you learn from this experience? Through this experience I learned a lot about flexibility and what goes into teaching. During the workshops activities didn’t always go as planned, but we were always able to find our way around things and still have a great time. I’m someone who likes to follow schedules, but with this program I have better learned to be adaptable. Additionally, as we are teaching girls new skills like coding or 3D modeling, I learned how to be an encouraging role model and teacher. The concepts can be challenging so participants need guidance and support.
- How will your project continue having an impact in the future? Our project already has made an impact for girls and will continue to do so. Our local high school’s engineering and science program saw a dramatic increase in girls applying to join after being exposed to concepts at our workshops. Additionally, we can see how excited the girls can get after learning something new or completing a project. I remember during our math workshop we were teaching girls binary code, the language of computers, and for one girl it just clicked! We spent twenty minutes after the workshop doing more practice problems and answering her questions. When her parents came to pick her up she was eagerly teaching them, too! This reaction was exactly what we had dreamed of when we created these workshops. Now this girl has a different perspective that math is so much more than homework or problems.
- Overall, summarize how your project was completed and how you think it went. Our project was completed in May with a showing of Hidden Figures and a discussion after the movie. We also conducted two other workshops involving engineering and robotics. The entire project was completed by having 7 total workshops throughout the span of the year, each one focusing on a new topic. The project went extremely well. We got positive feedback from parents and students. It was a learning process at first figuring out the best structure for the workshops, but we settled into a groove.
- How was the Karma for Cara microgrant helpful in the completion of your project? The microgrant was extremely helpful in covering the materials cost. Instead of having to ask for donations from people to fund the program, the program was completely free for students. This was especially important for those in our community who are low income to give all girls an equal opportunity to join.